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NO.53
SUMMER2017

Rabbit with Lettuce, Peas & Mint

This recipe serves three and may be doubled, as it is in Warner’s version.


Rabbit Scene -about 1/3 lb diced slab bacon
-2 carrots, peeled and diced
-2 celery stalks, diced
-2 smashed and diced cloves of garlic
-2 diced shallots
-a rabbit cut into 6 pieces
-flour for dusting the rabbit
-salt and pepper
-2 Tablespoons butter
-olive or neutral oil (if needed; see Step 3)
-2 bay leaves
-a pinch of mace or nutmeg
-1 heaped teaspoon dried thyme
-12 oz hard cider
-1 package frozen baby peas
-1 heaped teaspoon (or more) Dijon mustard
-2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
-about 3 cups Romaine lettuce cut crosswise into ½ inch ribbons
-about ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint (optional; mintophobes may substitute minced parsley or scallions or a mixture of them)


Preheat the oven to 375°

  1. Dust the rabbit pieces in flour generously seasoned with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt the butter until foaming in a heavy casserole over high heat and brown the rabbit, in batches if necessary: Do not crowd the rabbit or turn it much, or it will not brown.
  3. Remove the rabbit from the pot and, if the pot is dry, add a little oil. Stir the bacon, carrot, celery, garlic and shallots into the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the dice until they soften, reducing the heat if they begin to scorch.
  4. Stir the bay, mace or nutmeg and thyme into the dice for a minute, then pour on the cider, add the frozen peas and bring to a boil.
  5. Return the rabbit to the pot, cover it and put it in the oven.
  6. After 40 minutes, add the mustard and vinegar.
  7. After about an hour, check to see whether the rabbit is done; stick a knife in a piece and have a look at the flesh. It should be tender and bloodless.
  8. When the rabbit is just about barely done, remove it from the oven, uncover the pot and set it on the stove on medium heat. Stir in the lettuce and mint or other greens and cook just until the upper leaves of the lettuce begin to wilt but the stalkside leaves remain crisp.
  9. Serve with a potato dish of your choice.

Notes:

- Warner allows a cooking time of just over two hours; at least with domesticated rabbit, that is far too long.

- He also uses fresh thyme, which is fine if you prefer; we think it tends to lose its flavor when baked this way.

- Warner also uses canned rather than frozen peas, which in terms of taste and texture are an entirely different vegetable. The choice is yours; at the loss of a very little depth of flavor, the frozen peas provide a fresher compliment to the lettuce without the mustiness of canned peas. Either way the Green Giant ‘LeSueur’ brand, whether frozen or canned, is the best on the American market.

- He uses red wine vinegar too, but we prefer concentrating the apple tones and that is why we use cider vinegar instead.

- Warner lists ‘a handful of mint’ but forgets to add it to the dish in the instructions to the recipe. Some people may consider that serendipitous; the Editor’s household is split about the addition of mint to anything.

- Chicken is a workable substitute for the rabbit. It is considerably fattier, so the optional dose of oil at Step 3 will not be necessary. Add the mustard and vinegar after 30 minutes at Step 6 and check to see if the chicken is done after 45 minutes; it usually takes less time than the rabbit.

- The rabbit recipes from 500 Sixpenny Recipes by Nora Fletcher (London 1934) are considerably simpler, although she advocates marinating the rabbit in aromatics and white wine or vinegar for several hours in some of them. Mrs. Fletcher also likes to bone the rabbit for a number of dishes, which is sensible given the sharp, splintery dimensions of the smaller bones. Like Warner, she likes to cook her rabbit with lettuce and cider (or beer or white wine), but for Fletcher it is an either/or proposition. An updated version of her Braised Rabbit With Lettuce would go something like this: Cut a rabbit into six pieces and marinate it for 2-3 hours in enough white wine just to cover, along with diced carrot and onion, a few stalks of parsley, two bay leaves, a teaspoon of dried thyme and some whole peppercorns. Cut the rabbit into biggish boneless chunks, dust them lightly with generously seasoned flour (salt, pepper and cayenne) and brown them quickly in a heavy pot with two Tablespoons of foaming unsalted butter over high heat. Get the rabbit out of the pot, reduce the heat to medium and stir the carrot and onion from the marinade with two chopped bacon slices into the pot until the aromatics are barely golden. Deglaze the pot with a little of the wine from the marinade, return the rabbit to the pot with the bay leaves from the marinade, a new teaspoon of thyme, a splash of Worcestershire and enough beef or chicken (or rabbit if you have it) stock to cover. Bring the braise to a boil, cover the pot and bake it in a preheated 350 oven until the meat is nearly tender in about 35-40 minutes. Return the pot to the stove on medium heat and fold in about two cups of Romaine cut into half inch ribbons. Cook until the outer leaves wilt but the stalkier ones remain crisp, check the seasonings and serve hot.

The Sixpenny Recipe for rabbit casserole is simpler still. Marinate and bone the rabbit as before and fry it in butter over high heat with two chopped shallots until the meat begins to brown but the shallots do not scorch. Sprinkle the rabbit with about two teaspoons of flour, stir the pot until the flour loses its raw color and pour in a cup of good ale or hard cider and enough stock just to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot and simmer until the rabbit is tender but not stringy, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile throw about a cup and a half of sliced mushrooms that you have fried in butter until golden into the pot with the rabbit and ale or cider. Sprinkle the dish with parsley and serve.

- Both of these Sixpenny Recipes serve two.

- To brown mushrooms, always get the butter extremely hot--browned butter is fine--in a shallow skillet over the highest heat you have. To prevent scorching, shake the skillet instead of stirring the mushrooms, which contain a lot of water: All these precautions are intended to prevent the mushrooms from shedding too much of their liquid and boiling to a rubbery state instead of acquiring golden streaks.


- Bacon, mushrooms and vinegar often find their way into British rabbit recipes. A simple twentieth century recipe for rabbit pie is another example. It appears in Great British Cooking: A Well Kept Secret by Jane Garmey (New York 1981) and its name fits the theme of this bfia number. Four servings.